Benioff and Weiss discuss the Night King origin and raison d’être going into Season 8

Night King 605 Children of the Forest White Walkers Origin

The Night King (not to be confused with A Song of Ice and Fire‘s Night‘s King) has been the subject of much fan discussion and theorizing. Though it remains a possibility that we’ll learn more in season 8, showrunners David Benioff and D.B Weiss sat down to provide some concrete insight into the Night King’s origin, nature and motivation.

In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Benioff and Weiss explained that they wanted to give the Night King, and thus the White Walkers, an origin that felt practical rather than mystical—an origin out of history, rather than legend and myth.

“It was almost logical as you went back in time, as you create the prehistory for all this,” Weiss said. “We’ve seen what the White Walkers do, we’ve seen how they perpetuate themselves and created the wights. If you’re going backwards, well, they made these things … so what made them? We always liked the implication that they weren’t some kind of cosmic evil that had been around since the beginning to time but that the White Walkers had a history — that something that seems legendary and mythological and permanent wasn’t. They had a historical cause that was comprehensible like the way the wars on screen we’re seeing unfold are comprehensible. They’re the result of people, or beings, with motivations we can understand.”

“And once you go back into that flashback scene, that required a person there,” said Benioff. “And that was Vlad [Furdik], who for a long time was our best stuntman.”

Though so much about the Night King has been revealed – who he once was, how and why he was created, why he takes Craster’s babies – his motivation has remained a topic of debate amongst fans. At the end of the day, what are he and his cronies all about?

“I don’t think of him as evil, I think of him as Death,” Benioff said. “And that’s what he wants — for all of us. It’s why he was created and that’s what he’s after.”

While this explanation may disappoint those who were hoping for a twist to the White Walker’s nature (I myself had my fingers crossed for a resolution in the vein of The Devil in the Dark), it’s a straightforward and sensical raison d’être for our baddies. The Night King’s prime directive at “birth” was to destroy humanity. So, thousands of years later, wouldn’t you know it, that’s still what he’s trying to do—not so much a character as an avatar of death, which is probably why, when the showrunners were asked why they decided against giving the Night King the power of speech, Benioff answered simply:

“But what’s he going to say? Anything the Night King says diminishes him.”

44 responses

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    1. Am I in the minority when I say I don’t mind if the white walkers or Night King have some epic (trippy) origin story. I’m okay with them being an avatar of death. I’m okay with them being symbolic of some real world injustice. I’m fine with them living on as some ultimate metaphor.

      The real meat and political intrigue of the show has always resided with the human characters. As long as that content is still in heavy gear in season 8, I won’t mind if the wars they fight aren’t over something more mythically complex.

      That’s kind of why I always wondered why people want the Night King to be the last villain. He isn’t as complex or multidimension as Cersei to be a satisfying last adversary. At least in my opinion.

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    2. Though so much about the Night King has been revealed – who he once was, how and why he was created, why he takes Craster’s babies – his motivation has remained a topic of debate amongst fans.

      Did they really even address why he took the Craster babies? I mean, I get that he took them to turn them into White Walkers, but why only boys? Do they turn into baby White Walkers and grow up into full adult White Walkers? Wouldn’t that takes years? Are there baby White Walkers roaming around along with the AOTD? I guess thats the only way the WW can procreate, so that’s why they do it?

      Generally, I get why they took Craster’s babies, but there are a lot of details that we’ll probably never know.

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    3. “I don’t think of him as evil, I think of him as Death,” Benioff said. “And that’s what he wants — for all of us. It’s why he was created and that’s what he’s after.”

      The NK is the God of Death, but Arya will tell him, “Not Today”.

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    4. This kind of interview it’s just misleading BS! How can the Night King/WW do not speak but yet somehow just make a pact with Craster? How did Craster or anyone would know how to properly sacrifice the babies to begin with? So D&D wanted the Night King to have this “practical” and “logical” reason but somehow today there is no logic for the White Walkers to have been sleeping for centuries just to then somehow wake up and decide to follow some ancient programming to kill everything? What about the WW been refered by Mance as “artists”? Who made their clothes? Who made their weapons? How they just know the ritual to create WW babies? Do these WW babies even grow up?

      No D&D you didn’t convinced me and better have some sensical explanation thank you very much

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    5. And also, it was clear to me the moment they announced the prequel, the parent show had no intention of delving into any secrets of White Walkers. But I’m not sure they ever planned to, to be completely honest.

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    6. Rhoynish Prince: What about the WW been refered by Mance as “artists”? Who made their clothes? Who made their weapons? How they just know the ritual to create WW babies? Do these WW babies even grow up?

      I feel like this is all pretty obvious, they’re not braindead. They can clearly make tools, command armies. They do the art as a sick callback to where the Night King got stabbed in the chest.

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    7. costello,

      For what purpose? If they are not braindead then they do what do for a reason. The show itself contradicts these comments by D&D. They pretty much can be “just Death” and still have a reason or motivation. Why Night King wants to kill Bran at all? What straight harms can Bran do to them? There is a lot to unpack in this storyline

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    8. Mr Derp:
      “I don’t think of him as evil, I think of him as Death,” Benioff said. “And that’s what he wants — for all of us. It’s why he was created and that’s what he’s after.”

      The NK is the God of Death, but Arya will tell him, “Not Today”.

      Exactly! I still think that’s a pretty good chance for the title for episode 3(episode 70)

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    9. Kind of disappointed. Wanted there to be more to sink our teeth into even if that only opened up new questions. This feels oversimplified and too easy. Maybe the books will provide an alternate view of the White Walkers hinting at things like social structure, detailed history and more complex motivations.

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    10. Will there be a Night King in the books or is he just a show only creation? Will the books just deal with the Others (White Walkers) in general without a Night King or was Dany’s vision of her facing a blue eyed king who cast no shadow and his army at the Trident a foreshadowing of her facing an actual Night King (Maybe Stannis or Euron in the books)?

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    11. costello,

      How do you know that exactly? What about Bran? Can you see you are just speculating without more information? That’s what I’m talking about. There is more to the WW storyline

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    12. Sophie Turner revealed in the Rolling Stone interview that her storyboard is from the final season. I’m shocked, i was so sure it would be her feeding Ramsey to the dogs …

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    13. (I myself had my fingers crossed for a resolution in the vein of The Devil in the Dark)

      JON: How many people live here?

      TYRION: A million, give or take.

      JON: Why would anyone want to live that way?

      TYRION: There’s more work in the city. And the Horta Houses are far superior.

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    14. Rhoynish Prince:
      costello,

      How do you know that exactly? What about Bran? Can you see you are just speculating without more information? That’s what I’m talking about. There is more to the WW storyline

      I understand book readers need everything to just be outright stated in a block of text, but this is a visual medium. And you can see from how the WW behave that they try to strike fear into their enemies

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    15. Lol,

      So then how about you pitch some ideas to GRRM since it seems like he’s in dire need. That is, if you want to see the books done at some point this century.

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    16. Mour,

      I saw a theory today that Jon lives, but doesn’t want to lead, so hands off the rule to someone else. I could see it being Sansa (kind of foreshadowed in s7 when he hands Winterfell over to her while he’s gone… and if he died). So a storyboard of her walking up and sitting on the Iron Throne would probably be a bit more important than her feeding Ramsey to his dogs.

      Or something along those lines, as I still believe the throne will be gone by the end.

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    17. It’s not yet been explained in the books how Craster is able to live beyond the wall apparently untroubled by fears of the WW unlike the Free Folk. We have only this quote:

      “A godly man got no cause to fear such. I said as much to that Mance Rayder once, when he come sniffing round. He never listened, no more’n you crows with your swords and your bloody fires. That won’t help you none when the white cold comes. Only the gods will help you then. You best get right with the gods.”

      From SoS.

      Will we ever find out more I wonder…

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    18. The white walkers exist as an existential threat, and the bigger story is how the human characters react to this.
      How they come together, how they come apart, how they use this for their own gain, etc.

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    19. The night king for me represents terrorism- created by a religion for all the injustice they faced and then the people of that religion lost control of their weapon – the people of that faith no longer wish to bring destruction upon the rest of the world – they have found their own place far away from every one else and are content however their weapon – the terrorism still continues on – in a way Thrones shows us the way to eradicate terrorism is for everyone to join forces forget the past, destroy the threat and build anew

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    20. Hmmmm. Well, I still think the NK and WWs are linked in some way to the many faced God religion. That is to say I believe the Braavosi and the FM worship him/them unbeknownst to them. He is, after all the God of death. And lo and behold, the NK as a greenseer and warg can see through many faces.

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    21. I mean, NK is just some poor shmo who got shanked by the CotF for their own purposes with their own magic. THANKS, LEAF.

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    22. if there’s a twist with the WW they wouldn’t reveal it in an interview. they are probably just talking about the WW as we know them up to S7.

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    23. Concerning Craster’s boys, the WW, and the NK, I believe some folks here are overthinking it.

      Free Folk know to burn their dead, else risk the chance of their dead becoming wights. For whatever reason(s), Craster put his sons out to die of exposure, instead of straight-up killing and burning them. (Perhaps he feared a revolt from his daughter-victims if he killed their boys outright?)

      The WW saw, or the NK green-saw, Craster doing this, and recognized the opportunity presented to create more WW. To keep the supply of boys coming, the NK/WW protected Craster and his rape victims, who eventually came to see the WW as gods.

      None of this required any spoken words, just a tacit understanding.

      After the NK had enough WW, he could start plotting his final assault upon the realms of men. (Perhaps Dany’s Dragons, bringing magic back into the world, helped too?)

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    24. I’ve always wondered that without being able to speak, how exactly did they make the pact with Craster? How did he know that if he gives them his boys they won’t kill him? We never saw them trying to reason with anyone before killing them, why didn’t they kill Craster the first time they saw him?

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    25. Sansa’s Knight:
      The night king for me represents terrorism- created by a religion for all the injustice they faced and then the people of that religion lost control of their weapon – the people of that faith no longer wish to bring destruction upon the rest of the world – they have found their own place far away from every one else and are content however their weapon – the terrorism still continues on – in a way Thrones shows us the way to eradicate terrorism is for everyone to join forces forget the past, destroy the threat and build anew

      Intriguing thought.

      Drew’s right though; if anything is going to change our understanding of the AotD’s nature in S8, you’re not gonna hear it ahead of time…

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    26. I really don’t like that.
      The series starts with the white walkers, it starts with them having killed people and putting them in some ritualistic shape.

      The series is as much about them and their mission as the human intrigues and the fight for the throne.

      Them not explaining the white walkers in S8 is for me a big disappointment

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    27. OK so this article doesn’t really give us too much, even how much they got of the origin from GRRM which I understand they agreed to not confirm/deny in order not to spoil future books. I do feel GRRM has some input here though given the Night King appears in S4 when GRRM was still heavilly involved.

      I also really like the fact that the character doesn’t speak, far more terrifying in that way.

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    28. Aegon the IceDragon:
      Will there be a Night King in the books or is he just a show only creation?Will the books just deal with the Others (White Walkers) in general without a Night King or was Dany’s vision of her facing a blue eyed king who cast no shadow and his army at the Trident a foreshadowing of her facing an actual Night King (Maybe Stannis or Euron in the books)?

      My feel is the Night King could appear in the books but is clearly more required for the visual medium of the show. I highly doubt Stannis or Euron are linked to this.

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    29. Looper:
      Mour,

      I saw a theory today that Jon lives, but doesn’t want to lead, so hands off the rule to someone else. I could see it being Sansa (kind of foreshadowed in s7 when he hands Winterfell over to her while he’s gone… and if he died). So a storyboard of her walking up and sitting on the Iron Throne would probably be a bit more important than her feeding Ramsey to his dogs.

      Or something along those lines, as I still believe the throne will be gone by the end.

      I like this theory to some extent but it leaves our Dany who is power hungry and would be very upset should she miss out on her “birthright” to see it handed to Sansa by her lover/nephew.

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    30. Just some thoughts: If the Night King is destroyed, wouldn’t that end the White Walkers and the wights? If the NK was originally a Stark, how about luring him to the Stark crypts to confront the Stark kings of the past? Could they remove the curse that was put in his chest and turn him back into a Stark?
      Sorry, I’m a fan but I haven’t kept up with the discussions here.

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    31. Yes, we don’t know for certain but it certainly seems to be set-up that once the Nights King is killed his army perishes too.

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    32. A few more thoughts. Bran lures the Night King into the crypts. When the NK finally corners Bran, it turns out to be a morphed Melisandre. The crypts burst into fire.

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